Whether you've been paying attention or not, photos have been popping up showing Olympic Athletes covered in round, red marks. Then, of course, the social medias were all a-twitter (and a-facebook, and a-google+...), wondering just what that was all about. Conversely, any and (almost) all alternative therapists became VERY excited. They said to themselves, and probably out loud, "This is my time to shine!!" And they would be correct. The marks on the athletes are from a technique called "Cupping". And I, like my fellow Massage Therapists and Acupuncturists, am going to jump on the "Let me tell you about cupping!!" bandwagon.
So...Let me tell you about cupping!!
Cupping is when glass or plastic (sometimes bamboo) suction cups are placed on the skin to create suction. This suction helps to mobilize blood flow, in that area, to promote healing. This can be done through, either, Fire Cupping, in which a flammable substance (like an alcohol pad) is used to create a vacuum in the cup that creates the suction on the skin, or using a hand-held pump to create suction in the cup. Cupping can also be done in a static form, which is what the Athletes at the Olympics had done. This is when the cups are put on the skin, and left alone for 10-20 minutes. The other is sliding cupping, in which the cups glide across the skin. This is more of a massage technique, and has a similar effect on the tissue to myofascial release, as well as lymphatic drainage.
Despite the current trendiness, cupping has been around for thousands of years. It's earliest known practice dates as far back as 3000 BCE in Egypt. It also has roots in ancient China and ancient Greece.
The range of benefits of cupping are vast. The majority of it's use is in musculoskeletal issues (as demonstrated by the Athletes in the Olympics), but it can also be used to treat arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines, anxiety, congestion, and varicose veins. The bruising is the most common side effect of cupping, there is sometimes a mild discomfort or a burning like sensation that can accompany it as well.
As always, if there are any questions or concerns before deciding to book an appointment, it is always best to call before-hand. Your therapist should be able to answer any questions you have, and quell all of your concerns. That being said...let the cupping commence! If it's good enough for the Olympians (both modern and ancient), then it's absolutely good enough for you too.